Making Book Trailers Jump Off the Screen

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

I’ve always been a bit skeptical of book trailers, so when Diversion author Gary Grossman, who has penned the Executive Series,a fantastic set of political thrillers, told me he was going to have one made, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that because of his background as a TV producer, it would at least be high quality. What I certainly didn’t expect was to be genuinely excited about the trailer, to share it with my friends and colleagues out of bewilderment at just how good it was.

Gary’s video was posted to YouTube on January 7—just over two weeks ago. It now has over 44,000 views. I knew the trailer hit it out of the park, but even with that in mind, I cannot believe how successful this has been in such a short time. And since the trailer went viral, we have seen a steady increase in sales for the eBook.

(See the full trailer all the way at the bottom of the article.)

I asked Gary to share what the process was like, both in terms of creative development and getting the word out.


Q.  Fiction book trailers are usually a collection of slide shows comprised of iStock stills, generic music and some on-screen wording.  You took a very different approach.  How and why?

Gary:  With bookstores disappearing and eBooks taking off, we’re all looking at a seismic change in how people read and how they get to hear about potential reads.  Today, viral marketing and social media are tremendously important.  However, we don’t really commit to content online unless we’re hooked in the first few seconds.  Most book trailers don’t do that, and therefore aren’t delivering readers to the buying portals.  Authors, publishers and even publicists need to take a cue from movie trailers.  It’s a straightforward marketing rule:  Make them exciting and relevant.    Hit an emotional nerve.  Find a hook that immediately and dramatically gives the viewer the reason to keep watching.  The hook for the “EXECUTIVE COMMAND” trailer – a sharp on-screen declaration:

It was followed with a VIEWER DISCRETION WARNING.  If that doesn’t capture readers’ attention, I don’t know what will. From there, the trailer took to a raw, realistic YouTube approach to the story.  A teenager, dying from the water that had been poisoned in his community, videos himself touring the house where his parents have already died and his sister and brother are dying.  He’s Kyle Glascow, an actual character in “EXECUTIVE COMMAND,” now brought to life.

Kyle lays out the danger – the underlying plot –  which he doesn’t know is actually country-wide.  When he’s finished, he uploads his video on YouTube.  It’s edgy and hypnotizing.  You want to know more.  Tension tone carries through the next cuts and the reveal that this is an exciting new eBook political thriller.


Q.  It does play like a raw movie trailer, the kind that sold “The Blair Witch Project” and “The Fourth Kind.”  How did the approach develop?

Gary:   I found a wonderful  book trailer production company in Los Angeles, Film 14.   In my initial meeting with director Adam Cushman,  I described “EXECUTIVE COMMAND” as a “political reality thriller” focused on a plot designed to create nationwide panic and destabilize America’s infrastructure.  The terrorist target is water, our most vulnerable and valuable natural resource.   The storyline gave Adam the chills.

Adam insisted on reading the book (a great sign to me that he was fully engaged), and after a number of weeks thinking, writing and molding the creative content, he called me. “I want to try something different than where we were going,” he proposed.  “Of course, not a slide show.  And not even shooting illustrative scenes with the obvious [main] characters.  No,” Adam said.  “You have a short scene in the thriller with Kyle Glascow talking into camera then posting his video online.  That’s it!  That’s the story boiled down into a minute.   Let’s shoot Kyle’s account right through his video camera!”

I thought it was compelling, very different and absolutely inventive.  Risky, too.  The bottom line, I loved it.  I gave Adam a resounding yes.

Kyle only appears in a few scenes in the book, but as in today’s breakneck viral world, his voice carries faster and farther than the TV news anchors and traditional media depicted in the thriller.  The capper – as he’s dying, Kyle confesses into the camera, “You want to hear something crazy?  I wanted to be a movie director.”  His video makes him one and shoots “EXECUTIVE COMMAND” into high gear.


Q.   What was the process from there?

Gary:  Adam and the Film 14 team pre-produced the scene as you would a movie.  They cast a young actor as Kyle, shot the video, edited it and emailed a rough cut to me.  My day job is producing and writing documentary, news and reality series, music and entertainment specials, and more.  So I contributed to the creative process with only a few edit “notes,” and ways to focus the “sell” effectively at the end.  We collaborated quickly and easily.


Q.  Do you just put it out there and hope?

Gary Grossman:  No, you can’t do that.  There’s an old saying, “Without publicity something terrible happens….NOTHING.”  That comes from legendary entrepreneur PT Barnum.  And it’s just as true today as it was more than 150 years ago—probably even more important today.  And so, we’re launching the book trailer everywhere possible.

The trailer is on YouTube (of course — and below): I’ve worked it into my national book blog tour run by Pump Up Your Books. Diversion Books embedded it on their page for the book: It’s prominent on my own website, and we have blasted it out through social media.


Q  Have you created any other exposure?

Gary:   Yes.  I just produced a live red carpet TV special for “The Critics’ Choice Movie Awards.” Film 14 delivered a 30-second cut-down version of the book trailer and it ran in two commercial breaks within the special.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to broadcast them, but my principal market remains viral portals on the Internet, mobile phones and portable devices.  In fact, drilling down into the statistics, mobile is delivering a big percentage of the viewing.  That goes to show that people are using their second screens a great deal for videos and books.  Talk about seismic changes!


Q.   What is the price range for having a trailer made?

Gary:  It’s like anything.  It depends what you want.  The slideshow approach is the least expensive.  Search “Book Trailer Companies” online and you’ll find many credible choices that can get you going for a few hundred dollars. Taking a more robust movie approach and adding on the social media marketing services that some companies provide will take the price tag up to a couple of thousand dollars.  And certainly, if you have the chops, you can do it yourself.   Suffice it to say, Film 14 was great to me, putting in critical creative time and effort.


Q.    Apparently you bring a producer’s mind and eye to marketing.  How does it cross over to your writing?

Gary:   I try to think the unthinkable…bring tomorrow’s fearful headlines to people today.  Do I want my plots to come to fruition in real life?  No.  Do I believe they might?  Absolutely.  That’s why I term my novels “political reality”.  They could happen and we better be prepared if they do.   I also employ a TV and movie sense in my writing.  I write fast-paced scenes, I intercut action (multiple things happening at the same time) and give a cinematic flavor to the work.  Maybe that’s what sparked Film 14’s creative approach for the “EXECUTIVE COMMAND” book trailer.


Q.   Sum it all up for me.

Gary Grossman:   Think out of the box.  Market creatively.  Go viral.  Use the social media tools at hand.  Invent new ones.   Find teams that believe in you.  Encourage them.  Make it happen.

3 thoughts on “Making Book Trailers Jump Off the Screen

  1. Paul Meyer

    I thought about this for poetry / montage films but really never thought about it for a book because I just considered inserted interactive media. Really cool marketing idea to get readers interested!

    1. Mary CummingsMary Cummings Post author

      Same here! I’m so impressed by the approach. And I love the idea of using peripheral characters in the book, so it still leaves room for imagination for all of the central figures insofar as appearance, mannerisms, etc.



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